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Protection for Sale? War and the Transformation of Regulation on the Congo–Ugandan Border


  • Timothy Raeymaekers

    1. is junior lecturer at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, University of Ghent (e-mail: He has done extensive research on cross-border trade and local politics in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He is currently working on a book manuscript about cross-border trade in the borderland of Congo–Uganda based on his PhD thesis.
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  • This article is based on my PhD thesis, for which fieldwork was carried out in 2003–2006. I would like to thank Klaus Schlichte, Koen Vlassenroot, Martin Doornbos and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and suggestions. In particular, I would like to thank the organizers of the Panel ‘Negotiating Statehood in Africa’ of the AEGIS conference in Leiden (July 2007), Tobias Hagmann and Didier Péclard, for their invitation and their thought-provoking discussions.


This article proposes an explanation for the emergence of non-state governance in situations of apparent state collapse, based on an ethnographic study of the armed rebellion in Butembo (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo). The model of explanation is inspired by Charles Tilly's description of state making as organized crime, in which armed rebels and private economic agents enter an agreement for private protection. The study seeks to explain how an original meeting between Butembo's armed rebels of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie — Mouvement de Libération (RCD–ML) and an existing network of cross-border traders actually led to a ‘pluralizing’ moment, in which the reinterpretation of existing relations and regulatory practices contributed to a gradual transformation of the institutional framework and local governance. Recently, this local political order has entered into increasing competition with the internationally induced project of political ‘transition’, based on a conflict between dynamics of state building and translocal political (trans)formation.

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